So, you’re thinking of visiting Pompeii? Or maybe you’re travelling to Italy and wondering whether a detour to Pompeii is worthwhile? Researching and planning in advance can help you maximise your visit, beat the queues and see all the main sites. Read on for more…
1. Getting to Pompeii
There are many day trips, offering pick ups directly from your hotel and drop offs at the Pompeii archeological site. There are two problems I find with trips like these. 1) you’re stuck to someone else’s timetable: what if you love the place and aren’t ready to leave at the pre-determined time? And worse, what if you hate the place and want to leave hours earlier – you end up wasting your precious holiday time. 2) they usually charge through the nose and are rarely value for money! Thats why generally I prefer to do things under my own steam, especially in “safe” countries.
Taking that into account, we chose to travel to Pompeii on the circumvesuviana train. The circumvesuviana is a train service covering the region east of Naples. Its not glamorous – the trains are old, graffitied and have no air-con, but it does run on a line from Naples to Sorrento, which passes right by Pompeii. Both Naples and Sorrento are good places to stay when planning to visit Pompeii. Also, the circumvesuviana is cheap – we paid EUR 11 each for a return journey. These trains are used by locals and tourists alike, so its a great way to experience Italy.
We tied in our trip to Naples and Pomeii with a stay in Rome. Travel from Rome to Naples is on inter-city fast trains which are much more comfortable and can be booked online in advance.
On arrival at Pompeii’s station, the archeological park is only a short 5 minute walk away. All the main sites are within the park walls. Outside the walls are a number of restaurants, hotels and market stalls offering Pompeii memorabilia. A day ticket to the park costs EUR 11 but before getting to the entrance gates there are many people offering tours, which brings us onto the second consideration….
2. To tour, or not to tour?
There are lots of tours available when planning a visit to Pompeii, ranging in length and price. As the archeological site is so big (MUCH bigger than I’d realised) I’d highly recommend going on some sort of tour. It helps bring the place to life and see the areas which are most interesting rather than wandering aimlessly.
As we were visiting in August, I didn’t want to commit to a long tour in case it was too hot and/or boring. I’d heard from a friend that you could join tours on arrival so thats what we did.
In hindsight, that wasn’t the best approach. We signed up with a promise of an English tour ‘leaving in 5 minutes’. However it was 1 hour before we actually entered the archeological park, due to poor organisation and the guides waiting for more people (in the end they had too many people and split us into 2 tours anyway!). Having said that, once we were on the tour, it was great. The guide pointed out many artifacts that we just wouldn’t have spotted or understood on our own. For example lead pipes slightly exposed on the pavements, the crossing steps in the roads and she also explained a lot about Roman life of the era.
Tours help bring Pompeii to life
Having had a such a good experience with Walks of Italy on our ancient Rome tour, I think pre-booking their tour would have been a better idea. But its reassuring to know that good tours can just be signed up to on the day.
If you prefer not to have a guide and you’re adept with a map, there is also the option of an audio guide which can be purchased on the way into the archeological park.
You can check out the highest rated Pompeii tours on tripadvisor.
Some tours include the Pompeii archeological park entrance fee of EUR 11, others don’t. So its worth checking before booking. During our visit in August entrance queues moved fast: so don’t feel pressured to join tours only to ‘beat the queues’.
3. Food and drink in Pompeii
When travelling abroad use apps to find the best restaurants nearby. My top 5 travel apps make sure you’ll never need to gamble on a restaurant again!
Hopefully these few tips help you get the most out of your visit to Pompeii. Let me know if they do and tag your photos on Instagram with #thetallwanderer